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Wondering about a gift for the musician in your life? We've compiled a list of items representing practicality, value, and the occasional bit of indulgence. These products are meant to be enjoyed -- not collect dust. The solutions we've included serve a variety of music performance, engineering, and production needs, guaranteeing much use and pleasure without blowing your bonus check.
The Pandora is a palm-sized multi-effects processor and amp/cabinet modeling device for guitar players. First introduced in the mid 1990's, this incarnation of the Pandora features a fast USB 2.0 port for direct computer recording, an 80-second phrase sampler with vari-speed, pitch-constant playback, a quick, accurate tuner, a footswitch jack and cable, and 744(!) preset rhythm and bass patterns to keep timing and versatility razor sharp. The most amazing feature of the PX5D, however, is its sound. The easily-programmed effects and models, seven of which may be chained together simultaneously, sound rich and organic, and the response of the unit is such that no matter which guitar you plug into it, you always hear that instrument's tone, pickups, and character. There's an attribute often lacking in other guitar processors that makes the PX5D a standout.
Speaking of cool products for portables, Blue Microphones has released Mikey, a miniature stereo condenser microphone designed for direct connection that turns an iPod into a portable stereo digital recorder. The mic is equipped with a pair of high-sensitivity capsules backed by 3 user-selectable gain settings for level control, overload protection, a built-in playback speaker, and an adjustable head for optimized microphone positioning. Mikey is a great gift for a busy but hungry musician and iPod owner who'd like to record lessons, rehearsals, practice sessions, or musical ideas and phrases without having the expense of purchasing a separate recorder. Mikey is a breakthrough product with crystalline sound and superb functionality, available at a breakthrough price that both you and your musician friend will really appreciate.
It seems as if every musician has a home recording studio these days, along with a host of acoustic environmental issues that result in a lot of grumbling about poor and improper monitoring conditions for playback and mixing. The Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers are an ingenious and cost-effective solution to monitoring problems caused by aberrant surface-related speaker vibrations and resonances that maximize the potential of the speakers themselves. The Recoil Stabilizers are speaker platforms consisting of a urethane foam base, a laser-cut, neoprene-covered steel stabilizing deck, and a resonance-free front coupling plate, effectively isolating the speaker from the surface or stand on which it is mounted. The result: miraculously improved low-end clarity and throw, transient response, depth and imaging. Getting a pair of Recoil Stabilizers is like getting a new pair of speakers.
Should the musician in your life be a guitarist or bass player and a songwriter on-the-go, the GT-R1 will be much appreciated. A terrific value, the unit functions as a portable 16- or 24-bit hand-held stereo recorder with built-in stereo condenser microphones, and as a practice and composing device with a built-in 80-pattern rhythm machine, amp simulation, reverb and multi-effects processing, a tuner and a metronome. The GT-R1 records either MP3 or WAV files to inexpensive, high-capacity SD cards, and allows for both overdubbing and looping for layered recording or intensive practice. The unit may be used to record lessons, performances and rehearsals using the built-in microphones, or for performing and composing by plugging in the instrument of choice. The USB 2.0 port allows for painless transfer to and from a computer, and also charges the recorder. A true breakthrough device for the 21st century.
Here's a great gift for the songwriter in your life who composes and records at home (or intends to) on a computer using the ubiquitous native-based software known as Pro Tools LE. This book is written by Gina Font-Saez, a true Renaissance woman who has been on both sides of the studio glass as an artist, engineer, producer, and studio owner that recently converted her facility in Austin, Texas into an entirely DAW-based operation using Pro Tools hardware and software. Ms. Font-Saez is a long-time user and almost evangelical proponent of Pro Tools software as the ultimate modern recording software platform. Her knowledge, acumen, and highly readable writing style allow her to organize and convey the day-to-day working essentials of the program, in a manner befitting computer-challenged musicians and songwriters, with clarity and enthusiasm. Both novices and experienced users will benefit from the wealth of information and experience available in this 544-page tome.
If the drummer in your life is a new-breed electronic percussionist that performs on a drum pad kit, the versatile and surprisingly inexpensive Trigger I/O will be a welcome addition to the arsenal. The unit is designed to trigger hardware and software synth and drum machine sounds directly from the trigger pads via either MIDI or USB, and contains 20 programmable presets for customized performance setups specific to the instruments being triggered. The Trigger I/O is compatible with major-player pad kits from Roland, Yamaha, and Alesis, and allows the drummer to trigger anything from a cello or brass section to a synth pad in addition to other drum and percussion sounds. A software drum module, packed with CD-quality acoustic and electronic drum samples, is supplied with the unit.
If that special, hard-working singer of yours is out gigging or rehearsing with the band every other night, here's an equally hard-working stage microphone package that will keep up with the pace and won't break the bank. The E835 is an exceptional vocal microphone with a shock-mounted cardioid capsule designed to minimize handling, impact, and plosive noise while accepting pretty high sound pressure levels. The mic puts out a stable, consistent, high-level signal that really shines, and any singer that performs with animation and emotion will appreciate the forgiving off-axis nature of its pickup pattern and clear low end. The kit is packed with useful goodies including a sturdy stand, microphone cable and a clip. Truly a holiday treat.
Every once in a while a product comes along that is so cool and so well-designed that we feel compelled to rave about it. The SA6, which fits that description perfectly, is a set of in-canal earphones designed for portable listening to music players like the iPod and other MP3 devices. They rest in the ear so comfortably and sound so good that they compare very favorably to professional and high-end consumer models sold at twice the price. The SA6 is generously packaged, featuring 3 pairs of great-fitting flexible sleeve ear tips and a set of detachable bass and treble filters that enhance or diminish those frequency ranges according to taste. The filters work very effectively, although we should mention that the SA6's sounded phenomenal right out of the box anyway — clear, balanced, and well… musical.
Here's a great gift for the roving laptop musician in your life that likes to create on the bus, in the plane, or in the park. The KeyRig 25 is a very lightweight, bus-powered USB/MIDI portable keyboard with 25 velocity-sensitive keys. Ergonomically sound and very playable, this sleek little unit is absolutely packed with assignable controllers and buttons, along with an assignable modulation wheel and a slider. In addition to the essential tools necessary for spontaneous laptop music creation, the KeyRig 25 is packaged with the ever-popular cross-platform Ableton Live Lite sequencing software and M-Audio's own KeyRig software plug-in suite for the PC. How M-Audio was able to load so many features and so much value into such a modestly-priced keyboard is beyond us, but we'll take it. You should, too.